Spring, the second feature length film from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead is a little oddity. It begins with life leaving the earth, seemingly in an exhalation, as Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) watches his mother die of cancer. It looks like it is going to be a drama about a young man struggling to come to terms with his life – a never-ending spiral into depravity, despite his apparent kindness, charm and intelligence. After an altercation in a bar, and with the police looking for him, Evan decides to catch the first flight out of California and lands in Italy. He meets a couple of cockney travellers and goes on a road trip with them. They lack the depth and compassion he is looking for, and when they leave for Amsterdam, he stays on in the hope of seeing a beautiful Italian woman he met the previous night, the enigmatic Louise (Nadia Hilker). He gets work on a local farm owned by an old man still mourning his deceased wife, and sets about falling in love with Louise without knowing very much about who she is, or, more importantly what she is.
It often looks like it has been shot in a room in the morning when the sun is belting through white curtains, everything slightly faded and dusty. The editing is interesting, and like most of the film, it doesn’t seem to have a decided style, or fit an existing genre. It is a mosaic of styles, genres and shots, but somehow it works. There is the feeling that Benson and Moorhead are creating something new, and therefore interesting. There are of course, motifs of certain genres, particularly of the horror movies of the twenties: numerous shots of lizards, scorpions, spiders, dead animals, and full moons. The first sex scene is instantly cut with the image of a slimy grub – an indication of where the film is going, and perhaps a statement about the contrasting elements of being human – the ugly animal, and the sentient, loving being – perhaps suggesting that the two sides are never very far apart.
The characterisation of Louise is fascinating. She doesn’t fit the mould of any woman, or human in real life or in fiction. She is an anomaly, even to herself. It had me considering our current inability to accept the ugly and often frightening parts of the female nature. Her changing shape is possibly a metaphor for the changing aspects of the female personality, something that undoubtedly both frightens and fascinates men about women, and women about themselves.
“I’m half undiscovered science, a bunch of confusing biochemistry and some crazy hormones.” That could surely describe most women, including myself.
Yet there is no judgement of her, and in fact, despite her more grotesque characteristics, she is accepted and loved by Ethan, and therefore by the viewer.
The descent into horror is unexpected but comes relatively early. The reaction to it by our protagonist is not as expected. Once it seems settled that it is in fact a horror movie, it turns the formula on its head, and refuses to let go of the romance, and ends up being both comedic and charming, and in the end, quite profound. It is a cute, romantic horror movie with something interesting to say about life and death. It is little film and genre all of its own, and I really rather liked it.